From Ipoh To Melbourne: The Journey Of A Woman Entrepreneur

Women's Day

Always remember, the key is to be the best version of yourself at all times.

We have women who vow us on a grand scale. From scientists to leaders who are set to change the way the world works and uplift society, we know many of them and they continue to inspire us.

There are also women who choose to break away from the circumstances life has thrown at them, get out of their comfort zone, take a leap of faith and choose to pave their own course that leads to their goals and dreams.

These are the women we come across every day. The woman who just registered her business, the woman who just asked for a raise from her boss, the woman who is holding on to her career despite being a one-woman army at home. In short, a woman like you and me.

The girl-next-door with big dreams

Women's Day

So, this Women’s Day we bring you Grace Earthiam of Gracielicious Bakery who decided to take her leap of faith when she started her baking business back in 2014 and is now making plans to be a full-time entrepreneur.

Grace Earthiam comes from a small town in Malaysia. Changing her career track a few times, she stumbled upon her baking talent quite accidentally.

“In 2014 while watching Nigella Lawson’s fruit cake baking program, I decided to bake a similar fruit cake at home. To my surprise, it turned out very well, and my family and friends loved it,” said Grace.

So, she baked more cakes and people started ordering her cakes for parties and events. Grace sold her first cake for RM50 and by taking the right steps thereafter she started earning a few folds more.

She is now in Melbourne making her way to be a full-time entrepreneur.

Grace’s journey from Ipoh to Melbourne

Women's Day

Name: Grace Earthiam

Age: 33

Education: Certificate lll, lV Commercial Cookery & Diploma in Hospitality Management. (Victoria Institute of Technology, Melbourne)

Origin: Ipoh, Perak

Grace started her career as a medical laboratory technologist in Institut Jantung Negara. After a few years, realising that she didn’t quite enjoy her work she made the jump to Human Resources.

She became a certified Human Resource Practitioner and worked as a Human Resource Executive for several years. By then, she had started baking part-time.

Her secret is to continuously upgrade her skillset

In order to upgrade her baking skills, she enrolled in baking classes and started a small-time baking business. She used her Facebook and Instagram pages to drive in the orders.

She also had baking class requests coming in from other women who wanted to take up baking as their hobby and a possible stream of income.

Naturally, Grace expanded her business to include baking classes in the Klang Valley.

Growing from baking simple cakes for small parties to elegant wedding cakes, Grace was a full-time corporate employee and a part-time business owner.

Knowing full well that a leap of faith is in due course, she made a trip to Melbourne to test the waters. She enrolled in a short chocolate design course and it gave her all the courage she needed.

“I realised that there were a lot of things to learn and I needed to explore to learn more about baking and cookery,” said Grace.

In 2017, Grace left her full-time job and enrolled in the Victoria Institute of Technology, Melbourne for a Diploma in Hospitality Management. She has now completed her diploma and is a qualified chef working in Melbourne.

Women's DayWomen's Day

Challenges during her early years as a part-time entrepreneur

Q: What was your key driving force to become an entrepreneur?

A: I’ve always wanted to be a businesswoman as I was inspired by my father. He’s a businessman running his own successful mee goreng restaurant in my hometown in Buntong, Perak. As a child, I basically grew up in my father’s restaurant and I was fortunate enough to learn business skills from him.

Q: What were the challenges you faced during the initial years and how did you overcome them?

A: This industry was not as easy as I thought it would be. It’s highly demanding and bakers are expected to be highly creative.

With just basic experience and knowledge to run a business, I had to face customers’ high expectations and requirements based on the current trend.

As I worked full-time and baked after work, time management was tricky. As orders started coming in, I had to sacrifice my social life. At one point, I hardly ever hung out with friends and families.

Q: Being a self-starter, how did you build your customer base from scratch?

A: I started to promote my cakes via social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram under my brand which is “Gracielicious Bakery” (I have now changed it to “Gracies Cakes”).

I also gave an interview for “SoupFM” which is a top online radio station in 2015 to promote Gracielicious Bakery. I also collaborated with local cafes and restaurants to sell my cakes.

One of the basic marketing methods that I used is to make use of festival seasons and celebrations to come up with special offers and packages to attract customers. I think the best marketing I got was through words of mouth from my customers. The reviews from my customers helped me to build my brand.

Q: What has been your most satisfying moment in business?

A: With God’s grace, I always get very good feedback from my customers. I still keep in touch with most of my customers and they are eagerly waiting for me to return to Malaysia so that they can place their orders again. This keeps me motivated and I am grateful to my regular customers for their continued support.

Also, my business had been a one-woman-show and I am proud of myself to have reached this level.

On her new life in Australia

Moving away from one’s comfort zone is terrifying. More so if it’s another country where you have to learn a new culture and adapt to new systems.

Grace was leaving behind a steady corporate job and years of experience to pursue a relatively new career in a foreign environment.

She also had to halt her flourishing baking business. That was a risk she was willing to take for her future plans in Melbourne.

Q: Did you face any issues due to your gender when you started and expanded your business or when you embarked on your solo journey to Australia?

A:No, I didn’t face any issues related to gender in this journey to Melbourne. I have never let it demotivate me at any time.

However, my family and close friends were concerned and worried about my solo journey. I tackled it by taking it as a healthy challenge and now I have proved to them that I can live out here independently.

Q: I believe you are taking orders in Australia now. How is working in Australia like? How is it different from Malaysia?

A: When I first arrived in Melbourne, I started taking a few orders from local customers. It’s totally a different experience in terms of their dietary requirements. Moreover, their expectations are high when it comes to cake decoration.

The regulations for running a business is very strict in Australia.

Since I was focusing on my studies, I take orders sparingly and had baked cakes for occasions such as wedding, anniversary, and birthday parties.

Q: How did you stay motivated throughout your journey?

A: I always try to make sure to be surrounded by people who are like-minded. I always believe that like-minded people will see how important your hobbies, passion, and side hustles are to you. They will check in on your progress and push you when you're discouraged. In that case, I am blessed that I am still in touch with my friends back home and I have also managed to make new friends over here who keep motivating me.

I also find entrepreneurs who share their entrepreneurial journey online very motivating. They share their challenges and success stories that keep me motivated, passionate and focused on my goals.

Another fun way I keep myself motivated is by listening to Katy Perry’s Roar. Listening to it has helped me to be strong during challenging times.

On to money matters!

We asked Grace to share with our readers how she dealt with money matters when she started her business from scratch when she landed in Australia.

Q: Could you share the financial challenges you faced when you first started your business?

A: I faced financial difficulties to purchase tools to do cake decorations since I didn’t have a proper financial plan.

I also had to face customers with unrealistic price expectations. Some customers expected the cake to be cheaper than the price I quoted. It was a challenge to meet their expectations.

Q: What are the financial challenges you faced back when you started out and now? How did you tackle it?

A: I have managed to save money all these years through allocating a certain percentage from my salary and also the profit I made through my part-time baking business.

After I touched down in Melbourne, I immediately looked for a part-time job. After I got a job, I started to budget and managed my cash flow accordingly with regards to my expenses, education fee and rental.

Q: What is your money mantra in business?

A: Knowing exactly the cost to produce baking goods is important to set a price for them. If finance isn't your strong point, hire an accountant to help you deal with the numbers. I have found that Excel sheets are great when it comes to recording all the numbers day in and day out.

Q: What are your business goals after this, now that you are a certified chef?

A: For my short-term plans, I am planning to start online baking and decorating classes for beginners this year onwards. I’m also looking forward to conduct face-to-face baking classes by making frequent visits to Malaysia.

I also plan to have my own café in Malaysia and Australia with a mix of western and Asian food and pastries.

Q: What would you say to women who want to venture into business?

A: Find your talent and passion. I never knew that I will be able to cook, bake cakes and decorate cakes until I was 27 years old. Nevertheless, I pursued my passion and here I am, at 33 years old!

Don’t give up at any stage. You will struggle and face challenges at the beginning. Be brave to make decisions and speak out to get the recognition you deserve. Always remember, the key is to be the best version of yourself at all times.

Finally, a glimpse behind the professional baker persona

She is definitely all business when we were talking about her journey as an entrepreneur. But, when it was time for the rapid-fire round, we saw a different side of Grace!

Your biggest splurge?

I love vintage wine and cheese. Oh wait, wine is liquid of life. Then it is not a splurge, right? 

Your money regrets?
I am over 30 and yet to make my first million or anywhere close to it! 
Your inspiration?
My dad is my inspiration. He is compassionate, hilarious and often weird! He cares more about his lawn than anything else but he is the reason I always make the right decision.
Early retirement?
Yes, when I have my first billion!
Aim for 2020?
Find my prince Charming. I think I have had enough frogs and the arrival of my prince charming is long overdue now. 

Happy Women’s Day! 

Read more

Looking for more resources on entrepreneurship? Find out how this small business owner is staying afloat during the coronavirus pandemic, how this couple founded retail brand APOM, how much it costs to start a business, or how you can register your Sdn Bhd completely online.

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